New York Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court Decision That Said Barring Same-Sex Couples From Marriage Is Unconstitutional
(New York, December 8, 2005) — The New York Appellate Division, First Department (a mid-level court in the state) today overturned a lower court ruling that had found that barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the state’s constitution.
“While we believe the trial court got it right, we anticipated that this case would be heard before the state’s high court,” said Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the case. “This is a question of basic constitutional rights for same-sex couples and their families, and history shows that fairness under the law will eventually prevail.”
Today’s decision from the Appellate Division, First Department says limiting marriage to people of different sexes is not unconstitutional. It reverses the lower court ruling handed down in February 2005 that found that barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the state’s constitution.
A dissenting opinion by Justice Saxe says that denying the rights and benefits of marriage to New York State’s gay and lesbian “residents is contrary to the basic principles underlying our constitution, our legal system and our concepts of liberty and justice, and perpetuates a deeply ingrained form of legalized discrimination.”
Lambda Legal filed Hernandez v. Robles in March 2004 seeking marriage licenses for same-sex couples in New York, arguing that denying them marriage violates the state constitution’s guarantees of equality, liberty and privacy for all New Yorkers. The trial court issued its ruling in Lambda Legal’s favor in February 2005, and New York City decided to appeal. The mid-level appeals court heard oral arguments in September and handed down its decision today. Lambda Legal will now appeal today’s decision to the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court).
In addition to Hernandez v. Robles, Lambda Legal has filed similar cases seeking marriage for same-sex couples in California (with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU), Washington and New Jersey. A decision from the Washington Supreme Court in the Andersen v. King County case is imminent.
Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal, is lead counsel on Hernandez v. Robles. David Buckel, Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project Director, and Alphonso David, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney, are also working on the case. Jeffrey S. Trachtman and Norman Simon of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel of New York are cooperating counsel.